Chelsea moved a step closer to their goal of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages with a 3-0 win over Schalke 04 to see them go three points clear at the top of Group E. The home side were on the back foot early on in the match and survived a few scares before Samuel Eto’o reminded the world why he has such an enviable goalscoring record.
The veteran striker was lurking around the edge of the box as Timo Hildebrand waited to boot the ball up the pitch. As soon as the keeper had nudged the ball away from himself Eto’o pounced, taking a deft touch to guide it into the back of the net.
Petr Cech saved well to keep the Blues ahead before halftime, and Chelsea settled into their rhythm in the second half. Another goal from Eto’o after some good work by Willian sealed the win, with Demba Ba netting the third in the final 10 minutes.
The defending Europa League champions have virtually guaranteed that they will avoid dropping into Europe’s second-tier competition as a win away at FC Basel will see them through. Here are six things we learned from a comfortable home win.
After Chelsea had put the suspicions of an early season crisis to one side, attention turned to the lack of goals from their strikers. Whilst having players who can score from across the park is certainly positive, relying on the midfielders for goals is not sustainable.
Fernando Torres has appeared rejuvenated in recent weeks before he suffered a muscular injury in training. Samuel Eto'o stepped up having broken his duck against Cardiff City and scored twice, again capitalising on an error from the opposition goalkeeper to open his account on the night. Demba Ba added the third late on, finishing a lovely run of one-touch passing between Willian and Frank Lampard.
The renewed faith that this will inspire in the frontmen can only be positive for Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.
Chelsea's defeat away at Newcastle in the Premier League was disappointing to say the least. The team put in a half-hearted display that was reminiscent of their winter meltdown last season. Mourinho made it clear ahead of this game that a similar performance would not be tolerated, and Oscar told the Evening Standard that seeing the special one so angry was "scary."
Whatever he said to his players, it worked.
Despite a few early scares the Blues settled and were rewarded with a goal from Eto'o before the break. From then on it was all Chelsea, and the 3-0 scoreline could have been even more convincing. The home side had 11 shots on goal, seven on target, a great improvement on the two shots on target from 13 attempts that they managed against Newcastle.
Schalke were a formidable force in last season’s Champions League. Despite finishing fourth in the Bundesliga to reach the play-off rounds of the competition, the team are suffering from having lost two of their best players. Kyriakos Papadopoulos is one of the most coveted young centre-backs in Europe.
The 21-year-old is able to read the game incredibly well, and he has the perfect level of aggression for a committed centre-half. However, he has been sidelined since undergoing a knee operation in November 2012. Setbacks have seen him fail to appear at all this season, and it is clear that his team miss his presence at the back.
Schalke are also struggling at the other end of the pitch, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar ruled out until January 2014 at the earliest. The striker may be 30 years old, but he scored two goals in two games before sustaining a knee injury. Julian Draxler can cause problems for the opposition on his own; however, Schalke now need to win their final two games to guarantee qualification from Group E.
The hallmark of Mourinho’s first spell in charge at Chelsea was their incredible home record. Despite an early blip against FC Basel where complacency saw them lose 2-1, they have recorded six wins from seven at Stamford Bridge this season.
The supporters are in a much more positive mood than they were last season, and this is translating to the team on the pitch. A healthy dose of luck from goalkeeping errors has helped their cause, but it looks like Mourinho has made Stamford Bridge a difficult place for the opposition to visit again.
Terry has been the blue-bleeding heart of Chelsea FC since 2001. He spent much of last season watching from the sidelines as the interim manager preferred a centre-half pairing of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic, but the man who first handed him the captain’s armband on a permanent basis has restored him to his rightful place in the starting XI.
Terry had 101 touches against Schalke, making 90 passes with an accuracy of 96 percent. He also made eight clearances and played seven accurate long balls to keep the balance of the game in Chelsea’s favour. His leadership and commitment to the cause are vital to Chelsea, and if he keeps up his current form, he should get to exorcise the demons of Moscow 2008 in Lisbon next May.
Chelsea became the first defending champions to fail to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League last year. Although they somewhat redeemed themselves by winning the Europa League, Mourinho made it clear very early in the campaign that he had no desire to compete in Europe's second-tier competition.
This victory has opened up a three-point gap at the top of Group E, meaning that a win against FC Basel will be enough to see the Blues through to the round of 16.